The screen door slammed its familiar afternoon bang. “Mom! I’m home!” Marcus called out.
“I’m in the kitchen,” Mom called back.
Marcus pulled his shoes off by the front door, then made his way to the kitchen. His nose told him hot cinnamon rolls were waiting. He smiled.
“Would you like one?” Mom asked, pouring him some milk. “How was school?”
“It was OK.” Marcus sank his teeth into the warm roll. “There’s a new girl in my class.”
“Her name is Karen, and I feel really sorry for her,” Marcus said, staring quietly out the window.
“Well, she has only one arm. And you could tell she was scared to come to a new class. She looked at her shoes all day and didn’t talk to anyone.”
Marcus’s family had moved recently, and he knew how difficult it was to be the new kid at school. He couldn’t imagine how hard it would be if you looked different, too.
“I hope that you were kind to her,” Mom hinted.
“I smiled and said hi, but I don’t think she noticed. Most of the kids stared at her missing arm all day. Some even whispered and pointed, and you knew they were talking about her.”
Mom frowned. “I don’t imagine that that made her feel very welcome.”
“No, probably not.” He didn’t mention that one of the boys who had joked and pointed the most was his new friend, Tim. Marcus had been embarrassed each time Tim did it, but he hadn’t known what to do about it.
That night, Marcus’s father gave the lesson for family home evening. He talked about President Hinckley’s great love for all people and his counsel that each of us should be a little kinder to those around us. Dad asked each member of the family to think of someone to whom they could show a little more kindness.
Marcus thought hard while his little sisters took their turns. When Dad called on him, he replied, “I can show more kindness to Karen, a new girl in my class. She doesn’t have any friends yet.” Mother gave Marcus a smile of encouragement and a quick wink.
After he and Mom told whom they would be kinder to, Dad said, “OK then, I’ll expect to hear a report from everyone tomorrow night at dinner.” He closed the lesson by bearing his testimony about how important it is to follow the prophet’s counsel.
That night, Marcus fell asleep wondering how he was going to make friends with a girl who stared at the floor all day. And he worried about what Tim and the other guys in his class would think when he tried to be nice to her.
When Marcus walked into his classroom the next morning, he half-hoped that Karen would be absent. But she was sitting at her desk, looking straight down at a book and seemingly unaware of anyone else. That’s when Marcus had an idea. He went and spoke quietly to his teacher, Mrs. Meyers.
Every Tuesday was “book buddy” day in Marcus’s class. After lunch, Mrs. Meyers announced that they would divide into pairs to read out loud to each other. As she called out the book-buddy assignments, she paired Marcus with Karen. Tim grinned as he leaned over and whispered, “Tough luck! Guess you’ll have to hold the book and turn the pages, since she has only one arm.”
Marcus looked at Tim and smiled, “That’s OK. I don’t mind.” Tim’s grin disappeared as he watched Marcus cross the room to Karen’s desk.
A warm feeling filled Marcus’s heart as he smiled into Karen’s hesitant eyes. “Hi! I’m Marcus. What do you want to read?”
Karen looked up at him blankly, then ducked her head without saying anything.
“Do you like the Magic Time Machine series?” Marcus continued. “I just finished the one where they go to ancient Rome. It was great!”
“Really? That’s the one I’m reading right now!” She looked him right in the eyes and grinned happily.
“No way!” Marcus grinned back. “You’re going to really like the ending.” Marcus made himself comfortable in the chair next to her. He thought about his father’s challenge, and he was grateful for President Hinckley’s counsel. Not only had he found a way to be kinder, but he’d made a new friend, too!
I hope that we will quietly reflect on the wonderful things we have heard. …
If, hereafter, we are a little more kind, if we are a little more neighborly, if we have drawn nearer to the Savior, with a more firm resolution to follow His teachings and His example, then this conference will have been a wonderful success. …
In our family home evenings I hope we will discuss with our children these things and let them taste the sweetness of the truths we have enjoyed.
President Gordon B. Hinckley
(Ensign, November 2000, pages 88–89.)